Kahan Singh Pannu,IAS, is currently heading one of the most challenging positions in the state of Punjab – Secretary-cum- Director General School Education. A dynamic officer who served as Special Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister prior to this and recommended himself for his present position to the Honorable Minister, says, “Economically poor parents look up to government schools for educating their wards”. He shares his views on the need to impart quality education in the state. In conversation with Rozelle Laha
What are the challenges and opportunities in the school education sector in Punjab?
A major challenge for the school education department is the skewed pupil- teacher ratio in schools falling in geographically difficult areas. Another issue which impacts the delivery of quality education in government schools is the emotional disconnect between the teacher and the students. As far as opportunities are concerned, government school teachers are well-qualified, wellpaid and have the potential to provide quality education. Most government school teachers are dedicated to teaching. The economically poor parents look up to government schools for educating their wards.
What is your vision for education in the state?
Our primary vision is to provide quality education to the students with the aim to promote innovative thinking which would eventually lead to creativity of mind.
Please mention some of the projects taken up by the education department for ensuring delivery of quality education in the state.
The hallmark of quality education in Punjab is the posting of adequate number of teachers in schools coupled with their proper pedagogical training. The Pervesh Project that aims at improving the baseline knowledge of primary class students is helping us better the students’ learning levels.
Tell us some statistics to implicate the success of the Pervesh Project that was initiated to ensure interactive teaching-learning process in the state.
The Pervesh Project was started in 2012. It has helped us increase the baseline knowledge of primary class students from 27.13 percent in August to 48.81 percent in December 2012. Innovative teaching methodology coupled with the play way system of teaching has boosted the creativity of children, thus improving their learning levels.
The education department had created e-Punjab portal to make the administration process transparent. Please share its achievement and visions.
The e-Punjab portal has helped bring in transparency in statistics related to students, teachers and infrastructure in about 19,000 government schools in the state. Apart from this, the portal has also helped map the teachers’ position in various schools leading to the rationalisation of posts.
Are there any similar projects in the pipeline?
There is the proposal to further extend the scope of e-Punjab schools portal to mark teachers’ attendance, monitor the mid-day-meal scheme in a better way, and to take care of the student health programme.
There are around 20,000 government schools in the state. Do all of them comply with the norms of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan?
Yes, all the government schools in the state are complying with the RTE norms. The government is considering merging a few schools which fall in the vicinity of each other with a view to leveraging the resources.
What is your opinion about the implementation of the RTE Act in your state?
The RTE Act has helped improve the physical infrastructure of the schools. It has also helped raise the number of teachers. However, the quality of education being imparted is a major challenge, especially in view of the provision of the RTE Act which says that there shall be no external testing of students till class VIII.
Education Development Index (EDI) has seen a remarkable growth and it figures at number three among all the other UTs and states. Please comment. Although Punjab is placed favourably as far as the EDI is concerned, it needs to do much more in the field of quality education considering that it is a fairly well-developed state.
Tell us some of the steps you plan to take up to ensure better teacher training, address teachers’ absenteeism and impart quality education to the masses.
We plan to strengthen the various components of teachers’ training by building the capacities of the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) and the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET). Computer aided learning will be the major thrust area of teachers’ training in the future.
Please share your opinion on how technology can revolutionise teaching-learning and overall administration in the department.
Technology is the answer to the majority of the problems in the country, especially those in the education sector. The learning levels get enhanced tremendously with teaching through computer-aided technology as technology helps in better understanding of a subject. ICT-based management information system is a major step to improve the administrative capability of the decision makers.
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